The first question that comes to mind when speaking with Glass Tiger singer and frontman Alan Frew is: Can’t you take a hint?
While you might have known about the stroke that felled Frew in 2015, it wasn’t the first, last, or worst of his tribulations. Just before the stroke there was the detached retina. Then, more recently, 11 days before the band’s recent 2019 spring/summer tour opening for Corey Hart, “I ate something really bad, and in the middle of the night I was violently ill,” he says. “I was losing a tremendous amount of fluids. I just stood up, maybe a little too quickly, and that’s when I fell. They said I probably went down like I was shot in the head with a bullet. I smashed my face and broke my neck in two places… It required major surgery.” Was someone up (or down) there trying to tell him something? “No, no,” he says, laughing, acknowledging though that, “it’s been a brutal few years.”
The fall happened on May 20th; Frew had the operation to fix his neck on May 25th; and the tour started May 31st. And he did it, as befits a man whose motto is “No Surrender.” Looking back over the previous few months, Frew sounds surprised at himself for having found the silver lining in the grey clouds that have bedeviled him of late.
“If you look for it, there’s always a positive light shining at the end of that tunnel.”
“As wacky as this sounds,” he says incredulously, “if you look for it, there’s always a positive light shining at the end of that tunnel. So, my body language has been extremely limited for this tour. It’s not like, at my age, I’d have been runnin’ about like a crazy person anyways. But the funny thing is that my voice is at the top of its game. I may be the only one noticing it, but the relationship between the trauma and the pain, and then the delivery of my vocal, has actually been a little more emotional, a little more elevated, a little more passionate.” The glowing reviews have indicated that he wasn’t the only one who noticed.
The tour was timed to promote the band’s new six-song EP, 33, Glass Tiger’s first release of all-new music since 1991. Some of the more ominous song titles would seem to have come from a deep, dark place of self-reflection, post-trauma, but Frew thinks not. He calls it “an eclectic gathering of songs and lyrics, pre- and post-stroke.
“The big song, ‘Dying is Easy (With You),’ was written pre-stroke. It didn’t come from a place of, ‘Wow. I hit the goal post there and almost died.’ But ‘This is Your Life’ was very recent. Even though I didn’t go digging deep for a relationship between what I’d gone through and the delivery of those lyrics, obviously – subconsciously – there’s something there.”
Frew says that he’s particularly proud of this EP. “No two songs quite the same,” he says, calling it, “an homage to the band that we were when we were growing up, pre-EMI… When [we] mixed covers of The Police or Duran Duran with songs by Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard, and The Scorpions.”
Four of the original five Glass Tiger members from 1983 are still together (Frew, Sam Reid on keyboards, Al Connelly on guitar, and Wayne Parker on bass, with comparative newbie Chris McNeill on drums since the year 2000). “Sam Reid is the foundation,” says Frew. “He is my rock. Without him as my wingman, this band wouldn’t exist. Al and Wayne are our brothers. We complement each other. I think this little EP could only have been put out by a band who’s got a good 40 years of history together.”
Glass Tiger will be doing occasional Canadian dates in August, October, and November and then a five-city tour of Quebec at the end of December.